Christ: Refuge for the Unclean
As we study the meaning of the names of these Cities of Refuge, we see a distinct characteristic of Christ in each one. The Old Testament has promised Christ as our perfect refuge. Over the next few days we are going to stop and visit Christ in each of the ways He portrays Himself as our perfect refuge. As we do so we find that is how the New Testament presents Him.
Hebrews 6:18b we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
Today if in your sin you are fleeing—flee to Jesus, the safest and nearest refuge for the unclean.
If you fear your past, hate your sin, long to have some deep dark stain removed, some painful memory healed, some horrible guilt forever banished—Jesus has His gates open wide. His Door is unlocked and He stands with open arms to believers and unbelievers alike this very moment.
The Wonderful Benefit of Staying in the Safest Spot in the Universe is finding Christ as our Lifelong Refuge
KEDESH means a "holy place" or "righteousness,” and this is our first need. When we come to Christ, He gives us His righteousness and forgives all our sins (2 Cor 5:21, Col. 2:13).
So Jesus is the refuge for the unclean. There is no sin He can’t forgive; there is no stain He can’t remove; there is no failure He can’t forget. Remember this week these words from Christ's lips:
Mark 1:40-45 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. 43 And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.
This meeting is captured because it is the most beautiful reminder of how Jesus cleanses us completely as individuals. Here we see Jesus as the perfect refuge for this unclean leper.
Physically, leprosy is awful. Leprosy was the scourge of the ancient world. Nothing evoked more fear, more dread, or more revulsion than the sight of these walking dead. That is what a leper was called, a walking dead man. The smell of his decaying flesh would announce his coming long before the tattered scraps of his clothing would be seen, or his raspy "Unclean! Unclean!" announcement he was required to declare, could be heard. The stumbling shuffle of toeless feet, the wandering of sightless eyes and the moan of a cheekless mouth, all pointed to leprosy; this unseen attacker that slowly destroyed human bodies, and made the individual an untouchable to society. 
Spiritually, leprosy is a vivid and graphic picture of the horrible power of sin. Sin is ugly, loathsome, incurable, and contaminating; it separates men from God and makes them outcasts. The instructions given to the priests in Leviticus 13 help us understand the nature of sin:
- Sin is inside us, deeper than the skin (Lev. 13:3) and cannot be helped by mere “surface” measures (see Jer. 6:14);
- Sin also spreads just like leprosy (Lev. 13:8);
- Sin always defiles (Lev. 13:45-46). People with leprosy were looked on as “dead” (Num. 12:12).
- Because of his defilement, a leprous person had to be isolated outside the camp (Lev. 13:46) so lost sinners one day will be isolated in hell;
- And just as leprous garments are fit only for the fire (Lev. 13:52, 57), so those who die clothed in sin will burn forever. How important it is for lost sinners to trust Jesus Christ and get rid of their “leprosy”!
The steps in the leper’s cleansing and restoration (in Leviticus 14) picture to us what Jesus Christ has done for sinners.
The Priest had to seek out the leper (v. 3). Jesus seeks the Lost.
Leviticus 14:3 And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper,
Of course, the leper was barred from coming into the camp, so the priest had to go “outside the camp” to him. What a picture of Christ who came to us and died “outside the camp” that we might be saved (Heb. 13:10–13). We did not seek Him; He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
The Leper needed a Substitute to take away His uncleanness (vv. 4–7a).
Jesus died for sinners.
Leviticus 14:4-7a then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. 6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy,
This ceremony is a beautiful picture of the work of Christ. The priest took one of the birds and placed it in an earthen vessel (clay jar), and then he killed it. Christ willingly left heaven and took upon Himself a body, put Himself, as it were, in an earthen vessel, that He might die for us. The priest then took the living bird, dipped it in the blood of the dead bird, and set it free. Here is a vivid illustration of Christ’s resurrection. Christ died for our sins and was raised again, and He took the blood (spiritually speaking) back to heaven that we might be cleansed from sin. The priest finally sprinkled some of the blood on the leper, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22, nkjv).
The Leper had to Believe the Word (vv. 7b). Jesus asks us to come.
Leviticus 14:7b and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field.
After years of exclusion and separation because of his uncleanness, the priest told the leper he was clean. Even if he didn't feel clean, he had to respond by faith. How did the victim know he was clean? The priest told him so! How do believers today know that God has saved us? He tells us so in His Word! No matter how the leper felt or what he looked like, God said he was clean, and that settled it. Listen to Christ's words, let them sink into your soul:
- Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
- Luke 7:47 “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
- John 8:11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
- John 8:32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
We will cover more of Christ as a refuge for the unclean in tomorrow’s devotional.
For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit discoverthebook.org.